On January 17, 2017, President Obama leveraged the Antiquities Act of 1906 and proclaimed two historic sites in Calhoun County, Alabama, as the “Freedom Riders National Monument,” creating the nation’s first national monument dedicated to telling the story of the Freedom Rides.
The two sites include the former Greyhound Bus Station in the downtown historic district of Anniston, Alabama, where the bus on which a group of Freedom Riders was traveling was attacked by a white mob; and a four-acre site six miles west of the City in Calhoun County where the bus was fire bombed.
Both sites were visited last summer by the Honorable Sally Jewell, former Secretary of the Interior, and the Honorable Johnathan Jarvis, former National Park Service Director. In an overwhelming show of unified community support, local citizens addressed the entourage during a town hall meeting and emphasized the importance of establishing a national monument to honor the courageous acts of the Freedom Riders. In attendance were Freedom Riders Charles Person, Bill Harbour and Hank Thomas, the last surviving Freedom Rider on the bus that was burned near Anniston.
Going forward, a series of public discussions with National Park Service representatives will offer community members the opportunity to provide input to the process of developing the sites.
As a requirement of the status, the sites will be donated to the federal government and be managed by the National Park Service.
About the 1961 Freedom Riders Incident in Anniston
The Greyhound Bus Station in Anniston was the site of a protest on May 14, 1961, when a mob of whites attacked a Greyhound Bus carrying black and white Freedom Riders. As the mob hit the bus with bats and pipes and slashed its tires, the Riders remained on board. After local law enforcement intervened, the bus departed for Birmingham.
Six miles west of Anniston on the old Birmingham Highway/Highway 202, the bus was forced to stop because of damage inflicted earlier. The mob attacked again, this time tossing a fire bomb into the bus. As the Riders exited the bus they were attacked by the mob. State Troopers intervened, and injured Riders were transported to Anniston Memorial Hospital.
About the Anniston Greyhound Bus Station
The Greyhound Bus Station is located at 1031 Gurnee Ave., Anniston Alabama. Its exterior has remained virtually unchanged since 1961. The interior has had cosmetic changes but remains virtually untouched (no structural alterations). It was most recently the business location of Howell Signs.
The Greyhound Bus Station in Anniston is included in the National Register of Historic Places for Downtown Anniston Historic District in a 2010 update and boundary increase, resource #86. Date of construction is noted as ca. 1957*. The building is described as a “one story brick commercial style building with a flat roof. Off-center entrance at facade flanked to the north by two storefront windows. Retains aluminum bus canopy along south elevation.” The event of the protest on May 14, 1961, is further described in this document.
A 1950’s advertisement in The Anniston Star places the opening of the Greyhound Bus Station on August 8, 1952. The bus station was acquired by the city of Anniston for $82,000 from its owners in September 2016.
About the Antiquities Act
According to the National Park Service: The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archaeological sites on public lands are important public resources.